The holidays are often thought of as the most wonderful time of the year. We have images of families gathering together for holiday meals, children playing, holiday decor, friends and family exchanging gifts, snowy scenes with snowball fights, and warm drinks by the fire. But for many people, this is not reality.
The holidays can be a stressful time, even for those who are surrounded by family and friends. Expectations can be high, setting people up for disappointment. Trying to please everyone can be exhausting, and there is often financial strain. For those who have lost loved ones, or have broken relationships, the holidays can be lonely, and even feel isolating.
So what can we do to make it more bearable, and keep the blues away? First, realize that you are not alone. If you’ve felt like the only person who isn’t thrilled during this time of year, you couldn’t be more wrong. Depression is often at a high during the holiday months.
Next, get rid of any expectations you have. Wipe the “expectation slate” clean, and start fresh. Look at your list of “holiday to-dos” and remove anything that isn’t truly important, or doesn’t matter to you. It’s ok not to put out all of the holiday decor. Having your meal catered, or utilizing the local bakery for desserts, can take a load off, giving you more time to relax. Use gifts bags, rather than wrapping your presents. Anything that you can simplify, will make your holiday easier. Too much trouble to get the annual photo Christmas cards out? Don’t do it! The world will keep spinning, and if these cards are important to your family and friends, consider sending Valentines cards instead, when things have settled down.
Are finances getting you down? Talk to your loved ones, setting new limits on the cost of gifts. This will eliminate the fear of having someone spend more on your gift than you were able to comfortably spend on theirs. Perhaps you can suggest the family play a game of Secret Santa, rather than buying for each person, or even make homemade gifts, which can feel special.
The hardest things to deal with during the holidays has to be the loss of a loved one, and broken relationships. In these circumstances, you may have to allow yourself some time to grieve. Just don’t get stuck in this frame of mind. Make sure to surround yourself with others who love you. Do something to honor the ones you have lost. You can give to a charity in their name, and make a special ornament to honor their memory.
For those who do not have family or friends close by, don’t be afraid to reach out. There are likely others near you who may be in the same boat. It could be an opportunity to make new friends and connections. It is also a good time to volunteer your services at shelters or orphanages. This will give you a sense of purpose during the holidays, and you will experience the joy of helping others.
Take these steps to cut down on holiday stress, and try to enjoy the little things. Before you know it, another holiday season will have passed, and Spring will be on its way!